The Power of Storytelling

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Annie Rim -The Power of Storytelling3

Before becoming a mom, my visions of birth and labor were based on the trend at the time for bloggers to write about their labor experience. They painted beautiful images of water births and singing hymns and leaning into the pain of motherhood. I was inspired by their words and looked forward to my own experiences.

Neither of my labor and deliveries went the way I envisioned. They weren’t necessarily bad and the hours of laboring each ended with me holding a beautiful daughter, so I can’t really complain, but there were no hymns and the idea of water in the midst of laboring seemed like just one more thing to navigate. Both my girls were induced and I received an epidural each time.

About a week after my second daughter was born, I read a blog in which the author compared being a strong woman to giving birth to her five children without the help of drugs. I remember thinking that I just wasn’t strong enough.

Even now, a few years removed and with active, healthy, inquisitive daughters, I’m still hesitant to share my delivery story; still embarrassed that I wasn’t able to embrace what should have come naturally.

Last year, I was talking with a friend about her own birth experience, one that seemed so “perfect” compared to my own. As we were talking, I included the phrase, “Tell me more.” I asked for more details and learned that this birth that seemed so easy from the outside, came after years of betrayal by her body. After fighting and overcoming cancer, she had lost faith and trust that her body could do what it was created for. Her birth experience gave her renewed confidence that she was able and that her body wouldn’t always let her down.

I needed her story. I needed to be reminded that her journey and this particular part of it was a piece to a much bigger relationship with her own body. It made me rethink my own birth stories. I reflected on the fact that I had to learn to let go of ideals created before my daughters were born—something that does not come naturally for me.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in John 4, when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. Something that stands out is when Jesus continues to ask the woman for more, letting her share her own story even though he knows it already. Throughout their conversation, Jesus asks her questions and treats her with dignity.

We see this continually in Jesus’ ministry—when he asks the woman who bled for 12 years why she touched his robe; when he asks how the disciples will feed 5,000 people; when he asks the women at the tomb who they are searching for. “Tell me more” seems to be how Jesus relates with those around him.

I’m learning to stop and listen more. I’m learning that by including these words “tell me more,” I’m recognizing that we all have more than what appears on the surface. What if, when visiting our friends who are better at decorating or cooking or meal planning, we included, “Tell me more.” What was their journey to finding this particular creative outlet?

If I were to tell more about my birth story now, I’d recognize that from the second we stepped into the hospital, things changed from our perfect birth plan. I’ve learned that this is parenthood: Change from the plan. Rarely do my days go the way I’ve planned; rarely do the ideals I had formed before becoming a mom play the way I’d imagined. And I’m learning that this is good. My takeaway is that I hold my ideals loosely and am ready to reevaluate.

The power of storytelling is world changing. “Tell me more” isn’t yet a natural habit, but I’m hoping that by remembering to incorporate it more and more into my conversations, it will become second nature. And that as I hear those deeper stories, the ones that go beyond a blog post or a quick conversation, my worldview is shifted. I feel far fewer comparisons and am finding quite a lot of commonality.

The more I listen, the more naturally stories resonate and I see myself in those around me. As I hear more stories, I see more and more threads connecting us all, tying us together, and making us stronger. There is power in storytelling, yes. And there is power in creating safe spaces for hearing those stories.

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Annie Rim
Annie lives in Colorado where she plays with her daughters, hikes with her husband, and writes about life & faith. She has taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. You can connect with her on Twitter @annie_rim or on her blog: annierim.wordpress.com.
Annie Rim

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Annie Rim
  • I’ve noticed that when Krista Tippett or Terri Gross (professional story listeners) get the thread of an idea from a guest, they say something similar to “tell me more” — usually more direct such as, “Can you talk about that?” In creating space in the conversation for someone’s story, they bring out something that is valuable and really worth listening to. I’m so aware that many of my own conversations are, essentially, drivel. Thanks for this challenge to stop the flow and re-direct it in a meaningful way.

    • Yes! Not that our relationships should be interviews, but the reason these women are powerful interviewers is their ability to build relationship in a short time. It takes practice but a practice that is worth the effort.

  • Yes…the power of story telling can be world changing because it changes lives. I need the stories of others too, Annie. What an important message to share.

    • Thanks, Debby! I’m trying to be more aware about listening to a diversity of stories…

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    There’s so much in storytelling that resonates with the ‘show me, don’t just TELL me’ paradigm. Jesus illustrated His teaching with parables that put everything into context, and showed His listeners that He was not just another ‘lawgiver’.

    Great post, Annie!

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/06/your-dying-spouse-327-whats-heaven-like.html

    • Yes! Showing is so powerful, isn’t it?

  • Staci

    Very beautiful, thank you for sharing. 🙂

  • Hannah

    In the midst of so much political, religious and social division– I long to cling to the power of story. I want to ask people to “tell me more,” rather than throw out “how-could-you”‘s. Thanks for sharing!

    graciameansgrace.com

  • Stephanie Thompson

    Annie, you have offered a much needed exhortation. Our cultural interactions increasingly are reduced to “bytes” of interaction; much of it based on preconceived notions of someone’s story. But, as you state here, that does not reveal all. I stand in conviction of assuming/judging another’s identity based on a quick snapshot of their life. “As I hear more stories, I see more and more threads connecting us all, tying us together, and making us stronger.” Yes!

    • It’s so hard to reset isn’t it, Stephanie? I still look at a photo or a post or a single interaction and allow myself to assume so much….. Giving grace to myself along this journey and remembering to listen, listen, listen.

  • Robin Baldwin

    I love the invitation of tell me more! I’ll start adding that into my conversations with others.

  • So much yes! Let that be our mantra. Beautiful post. I’m finding living in such a diverse, transient city (Bangkok) that people universally love to tell their stories and have a willing listener, even if they’re naturally introverted.

    • I remember that, too when I lived abroad. We needed to go deeper, faster in order to create those friendships. And tell me more was key!

  • Those words are such a powerful bridge to understanding, and even things like peace and empathy. Beautiful!

    • Thanks, Beth! That’s so true…. Small shifts toward being peacemakers, right?